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Tunisia rejects special parliament bloc for Jews

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(JTA) — A Tunisian government committee rejected a proposal to allocate a bloc of seats in parliament to Jews.

The proposal, which had been opposed by Tunisia’s Jewish leadership, was rejected by the National Constituent Assembly’s committee on legislative and executive powers on the grounds that it would create unnecessary divisions among Tunisians, committee member Walid Bannani told Tunisia Live.

“This suggestion has no aim, and this is a civil country where the rights and duties of each citizen are determined according to their citizenship rather than looking at their religious basis,” Bannani said, according to Tunisia Live.

Before the decision, made last week, a local Jewish community leader had expressed opposition to the idea.

“I am a Tunisian like any other Tunisian, and I want a parliament where people are elected based on their qualifications to serve the people and not on their religious confessions,” Roland Sa’ada told JTA. “I might be Jewish, but I know many Muslims who could represent my ideas in parliament who I would vote for. Likewise, I would hope a Muslim would vote for a Jew running for parliament if he agreed with his ideas and thought he was qualified.”

Yamina Thabet, the president of the Tunisian Association for the Support of Minorities, called the effort absurd and a form of discrimination.

“If you are really serious about the equality of Tunisian citizens disregarding race, religion and cultural identities you will not be talking about seats allocated for some specific group of people,” she wrote on the association’s Facebook page. “We would like to see the government seriously criminalize all forms of discrimination, stop protesters who call for the murder of Jews, stop imams who call for the torture of non-Muslims, and non-Muslims should be allowed to serve as president."

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